Dogs are naturally sociable. It’s an instinctive trait that comes from their history as wild pack animals. Without social interaction, dogs become depressed. Emotional or physical trauma can make a dog timid. This behavior may seem harmless in a puppy or young dog, but ongoing timid behavior can cause your dog to develop anxiety-related aggression issues later in life. Fortunately, you can use positive, kind training methods to help your dog overcome his timid tendencies and turn him into a sociable, confident family pet.
Observe his body language and look out for signs of anxiety and stress. A hunched posture is a classic sign of fear.
Monitor your dog’s behavior and look out for stimuli that trigger his timid behavior. For example, a dog who has previously been abused may associate his negative experiences with adult men.
Determine his tolerance thresholds. Once you know the triggers and causes of his timid behavior, test how quickly they bring out his timid behavior. For example, leave him to explore by himself for a minute, then walk toward him. Some dogs may allow this to happen until you get very close, at which point they become timid. Others may have a lower tolerance threshold and will become timid the second they see you coming.
Human ContactStep 1
Hold a food treat, such as a biscuit or a piece of chicken, in your left hand at the same height as your dog’s nose. Dog trainer Cesar Millan actually recommends tying a piece of chicken to your belt.
Walk near to, but not toward the dog. Avoid eye contact. The trick here is to make the dog approach you without realizing you are looking for him.
Release the treat to the dog once he approaches you. With sufficient repetition, your timid dog will learn that when he comes to you, good things happen. This will help him gain confidence around people.
Put your dog on a long leash and walk him to the dog park. Walk in a confident, relaxed manner. Dogs take many of their cues from their owners. If you’re stressed, he’ll assume there is a problem and will become stressed too. If you have a sympathetic dog-owning friend, have her meet you with her dog. It’s always preferable to socialize your pet with dogs who you know to be well behaved.
Give verbal praise to your dog. This is a positive stimulus that he’ll enjoy receiving. Allow the dogs to interact, but don’t force them together. Observe the interaction and continue praising your pooch for as long as he remains confident and passive. Let them mingle for no longer than three minutes. It’s important you don’t overexpose your dog while he is still timid, as this can exacerbate the problem.
Cease the verbal praise and gently guide him away the second you see him show signs of timid behavior, such as cowering or hunching. By taking away the praise, you are showing your dog that good things disappear when he is timid. Over time, he’ll become desensitized to other dogs and will eventually learn to enjoy their company.
Items You Will Need
- Food treats
- Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images